How Does Methadone Work?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on December 29, 2021

Methadone is a medication that is used to treat opioid use disorder, or opioid addiction. It can effectively treat opioid withdrawal and prevent opioid cravings by binding to the same opioid receptors in the brain as other opioid drugs.

How Does Methadone Work?

Methadone is an opioid addiction medication that is used as part of a comprehensive treatment program for opioid use disorder, which affects an estimated 1.6 million Americans.

Methadone works by changing how the brain and central nervous system respond to pain. It does this by activating the same opioid receptors in the body as other opiates.

Learn more about the benefits of using methadone during addiction treatment

What Methadone Does

Methadone is an opioid full agonist. Like other opioids, methadone binds to opioid receptors in the brain that regulate hormones, breathing rate, mood, and the endocrine system.

Unlike most other opioids, methadone is long-acting. This means it takes longer for it to fully go into effect. It also stays in the body longer and does not cause a “high” in therapeutic doses.

What methadone can do for opioid addiction:

  • reduce the severity of opioid withdrawal symptoms
  • reduce opioid cravings
  • serve as opioid replacement therapy

Methadone is safe and effective when taken as directed. It is commonly taken as a long-term maintenance treatment for heroin addiction or opioid use disorder.

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Risks Of How Methadone Works

Side effects and other health risks associated with methadone use can occur while taking methadone for opioid use disorder.

Primary risks of methadone include:

Despite its risks, methadone is a leading treatment for opioid addiction that has been utilized for decades. Alternatives to methadone include buprenorphine (Suboxone) and naltrexone (Vivitrol).

Call Today To Find Medication-Assisted Treatment

Methadone has been used to treat opioid addiction for over 40 years, as a tried-and-true treatment for an issue that affects the lives of millions of individuals and their family members.

With counseling, behavioral therapy, and other support services, methadone can help restore a sense of balance and normalcy to the life of a person struggling with opioid addiction.

For more information, call our helpline today to find methadone maintenance treatment options near you.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on December 29, 2021
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